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What Does a Special Education Assistant Do?

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  • Written By: Steve R.
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 17 July 2014
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A special education assistant is a professional who assists teachers in educating students in kindergarten to grade 12 who have disabilities. An assistant may perform a variety of duties to aid the students in fully participating in the educational environment, including helping students complete their work and preparing class materials. A teaching assistant typically has an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in education, as well as special training to teach students with disabilities.

A special education assistant typically helps with classroom activities, such as paperwork and lesson planning. As students with special needs may have a variety of developmental, emotional, and physical disabilities, the assistant sees to individual students' needs, such as grooming and eating, as well as assistance in using the bathroom. Another important job responsibility of the assistant is to ensure the well being of students with special needs inside and outside of the classroom on school property.

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An education assistant needs to be extremely patient and must be able to deal well in stressful and difficult environments. The assistant must possess excellent communication skills, both oral and written, and be capable of following explicit instructions from the teacher. Typically, a special education assistant is required to be adaptable working with a variety of students. He also must be extremely detail oriented, as each student has his own specific needs and requirements for accommodation in the classroom. The assistant generally is required to work with students individually, as well as in small group situations. He may be required to lift students if needed.

Most special education assistants have earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, often in child development, and have experience working with children. Also, the assistant needs to demonstrate knowledge of physical and emotional disabilities, developmental disorders, and learning delays. Having the capability to speak more than one language generally makes a special education assistant more marketable. Typically, the assistant will receive some type of training to familiarize himself with school's procedures and policies, as well as class materials and instructional methods employed by the teacher.

A special education assistant may receive higher pay as he gains more responsibilities or advances in his education. It is possible in some settings for an assistant to receive tuition reimbursement for further education. In many instances, an assistant may receive assistance for education in return for working a certain amount of time for a school district. In some instances, a special education assistant is required to pass a background check or drug screening prior to gaining employment. He often is required to also have a valid driver’s license.

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